Merriam-Webster defines a critique as:
a careful judgment in which you give your opinion about the good and bad parts of something (such as a piece of writing or a work of art)
It defines criticism as follows:
the act of expressing disapproval and of noting the problems or faults of a person or thing : the act of criticizing someone or something
: a remark or comment that expresses disapproval of someone or something
: the activity of making careful judgments about the good and bad qualities of books, movies, etc.
While one sounds fairly positive the other makes us all want to frown. I’m not saying the frown is not well deserved or that we should even be frowning about it. Let’s face it, some of the things we do in life do deserve criticism. We may not like it, but being the imperfect people we are (I know I should only speak for myself, but I suppose I’ll have to leave that opinion open to criticism! 😉 ) we will inevitably do things that others disapprove of, right or wrong.
Of course, I am learning to appreciate honest critiques of my works. The very fact that I told anyone other than my immediate family that I’m writing a book is a step of growth in this area! But when it comes to anything in life, I always struggle with my first reactions to critique, criticism, or what we will further call constructive criticism, which is a little different perspective on the negative idea of people expressing disapproval.
Constructive is defined: helping to develop or improve something : helpful to someone instead of upsetting and negative.
SO, if we put that in front of the other negative word we have a bit of an oxymoron of the mind. My mind says criticism is negative, but constructive is obviously positive. Who doesn’t want to improve? Well, I’d like to think that when criticism is really truly constructive that it will be given in this light and taken in this light, as a positive way to improve whatever it is that’s being critiqued. That means that if I offer criticism it needs to be followed up by positive alternatives and encouragement, I think.
I certainly want to be more aware of the kind of critique I give because I don’t want it to come across as criticism without construction. I hope that in the future, any time I receive criticism I will view it through the lens of constructive building up and improvement so that even when it’s not meant that way, I can be better for having heard it instead of just bitter.
So, the next time you hear someone’s criticism of something you’ve done or said, listen. Really listen, but put on your “constructive” lenses so you really can see what is being said and instead of causing negativity, let it build up some new positive changes in your mind, attitude, choices, works, words, and life.
Most criticism is meant to be a critique or constructive, so it’s up to us to choose to view it that way because ultimately we are responsible for our own reactions and behavior.
“Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson,